Marking the Time: A Personal Reflection
Rabbi’s Message – October 6, 2020
So many core memories become associated with time markers, but marking the passage of time in 2020 has been challenging. Key moments have changed: family seders, graduation parties, end of school picnics, summers by the pool or at summer camp, school supplies shopping, birthday parties, and break-the-fast gatherings. It has even been hard to know what month it is, because so little has changed in how we have been living since March. Indeed, we all need “days of the week” t-shirts just to keep us on schedule.
But, this week, I found myself unusually conscious of the days and times of the year. You see, tomorrow Jonah turns 11. While it will not resemble most of our birthday celebrations with family and friends in the past, it feels more like his birthday to me than any of the others that have come before.
Jonah’s birthday has always been tied to Sukkot. In 2009, on a Friday, five days after we read the story of Jonah on Yom Kippur, we entered into Sukkot. By Saturday night our Sukkah was decorated and ready to enjoy, and on Sunday, following religious school, our congregation kindly hosted a baby shower in my honor. But the next morning, Monday, October 5, I entered the hospital with pregnancy complications and Jonah was born on the evening of Wednesday, October 7, or the 20th of Tishri. We remained in the hospital until after Simchat Torah.
Since then, Jonah’s birthday hasn’t fallen over Sukkot, except in 2017. And it has felt very strange each year to mark Jonah’s entrance into the world without it. During Sukkot, we, as a family, remind each other about the year Scott worked so hard to put up our sukkah but nobody was able to dwell in it. But for the first time in 2020, time is being marked in a way that feels normal and natural to me. Everything completely aligns and the calendars are in synch. And it brings me true joy in this “zman simchateinu” (time of our rejoicing) to be able to sit as a family and celebrate Jonah’s birthday under the stars of our sukkah. There is comfort in finding something eternal within such an ephemeral year.
Perhaps this is the meaning of Sukkot for me this year. When we read from Kohelet, Ecclesiastes, we are reminded that everything we are concerned about is temporal. This year, we have seen how many of the things we believed were steadfast in our world have become as tenuous as the walls of our sukkahs. But what ultimately remains eternal is our relationship with God and our appreciation of the many gifts we enjoy every day, especially at a time when we have been focusing on what has been taken away. Hold your family close, focus on the beauty that is all around you, and keep making memories, whatever day of the week it happens to be. (And let me know if you need a t-shirt to remind you.)